Winter is really here, and with a low temperature of -13 last night the main job around the farm these days is keeping warm! We'll bed the pigs down with a bit more hay, and increase the hay fed to the other animals (horses, cows, sheep & goats) since they'll use the extra calories to keep warm. The bunnies have lots of hay too, but I've never seen creatures less concerned about the weather. My does love to be outside, and I can frequently see the outline of the individual snowflakes on the backs of my black girls. The chickens have plastic over the windows to keep the wind out, and have plenty of feed as well, but they can actually suffer frostbite on their combs, especially the roosters who have large, single-type combs. Rocky, our not-so-creatively named Barred Rock rooster, lost a good bit of his comb last winter when it got down to -25 one night last winter. I've heard that if you cover the combs with Vaseline they won't get frostbite, but that doesn't seem like a very practical solution when you have more than just a few pet or show chickens. It looks like our Delaware might have a bit of frostbite the tips of his comb this time, but nothing major. The frostbit part will eventually turn black and fall off, which sounds horrible, but doesn't seem to bother the birds. Some people actually dub, or cut off, the combs as a standard practice anyway, so the overall effect is more cosmetic than life-threatening. But as much as I'd like to keep this from happening, there isn't much else I can do besides move south or put heaters in the pens when it's really cold. And since both my chickens and I prefer that the hen house doesn't burn down in the middle of the night with them inside, space heaters are out too!
Not surprisingly, there hasn't been much outside activity around the farm these days besides plowing out the parking area and knocking ice out of the animals' water buckets. Dan has been busy trying to repair and old farm engine so we can use it to grind our whole corn into animal and chicken feed later this month. It can also be used to run our hay baler in the summer so we don't have to put everything up as loose hay again. The old Wisconsin engine has been sitting for many years, so it's not going to be a quick project, but he's making progress. We recently got a new computer, so I've been busy transferring records and setting up new tracking sheets for the new year. While bookwork isn't my idea of fun, it does give me something constructive to do and, more importantly, it's inside!
The other main project we're working on is planning our seed orders for the coming growing season. Looking through the list of what we planted last year reminds me of all the successes we had despite the difficult weather we had here last summer. The color pictures of all the beautiful plants, vegetables, and herbs get me excited about planting a new garden. Our final order will be a good mix of heirlooms and commercial varieties, some which have grown here successfully in past years, and some new ones which seem too good to pass up. While keeping in mind what we need to plant for the stand and for us, I'm adding some "wish list" seeds to my initial lists. I'm sure I'll have to trim back the final list, but I figure that because I was able to save seed from a few varieties of plants, I don't need to purchase those seeds again so I have some room in the budget for some new varieties or anything that just sounds fun to plant!